Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust have just released the winners of their first research image competition ‘A moment of Research’.
Staff from across the trust, including the National Institute for Health Research Great Ormond Street Hospital Biomedical Research Centre (NIHR GOSH BRC) and University College London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (UCL GOS ICH), were invited to submit images that highlighted any aspect of their life-changing research that helps find treatments and cures for some of the most complex illnesses. These ranged from beautiful microscopy to intricate representations of data and photography.
The winning image, ‘Leukocyte Kaleidoscope’ entered by PhD student Christina Burke, shows immune cells in the tonsil tissue. Among the blues and pinks are T-cells, which play an important role in fighting cancer. Those surrounded by a yellow ring are at risk of becoming over-stimulated, or ‘exhausted’. Burke’s team are looking at images like this to better understand how T-cells interact with other cells within a tumour.
Great Ormond Street Hospital is one of the world’s leading children’s hospitals with the broadest range of dedicated, children’s healthcare specialists under one roof in the UK. The hospital’s pioneering research and treatment gives hope to children with the rarest, most complex and often life-threatening conditions.
Winning Image – Leukocyte kaleidoscope
This sea of blues and pinks captures the different immune cells, or leukocytes, flowing through the tonsil tissue at any one moment. Each leukocyte has a specific role to play within the tissue. For example, the cells coloured in light blue that form what looks like a river running through the centre of the image, are T-cells. These are part of the adaptive immune system and help fight infection. Upon closer inspection, some T-cells are circled in a yellow ring, indicating a T-cell that is at risk of being over-stimulated and becoming ‘exhausted’. Immune cells, particularly T-cells, play a vital role in fighting cancer. Christina’s team hopes that using this imaging technique, known as chip cytometry, they will be able to better understand how T-cells interact with other cells within a tumour. Photo by Christina Burke
Second place – Flames of hope
This image shows photoreceptors, which when stained generated an orange flame, grown in the lab from stem cells. Photoreceptors are the cells in the retina, a thin layer of tissue in the back of our eye, that help us to detect light – and ultimately see. Retinal degenerative disorders are the leading cause of blindness worldwide, with debilitating life-long consequences for those affected. It is hoped that one day we may be able to transfer cells like these, grown in a lab, into patients to help restore their sight. Photo by Dr Hassan Rashidi
Third place – Staghorn calculus
This image shows a three-dimensional reconstruction of the kidneys, with the right kidney having a large kidney stone, known as a ‘staghorn calculus’. This is particularly striking when compared to the healthy kidney on the left. Kidney stones affect 1 in 10 people and may be caused by chronic infections or metabolic diseases. They are caused by the build-up of crystals in the kidney which forms a hard stone-like lump. The build-up of this over time can result in gradual damage to kidney tissues. Photo by Dr Susan Shelmerdine
Shortlisted – From the Milky way to the airway
Reminiscent of Vincent van Gough’s Starry Night, this is an image of human nasal cells cultured in a petri dish. The cells are covered in cilia – tiny hairs used to trap and clear foreign bodies from the nose. Studying human cells under a microscope can help researchers spot important differences between different groups of people. When studying why COVID-19 affects certain age groups more than others, researchers noticed that these galaxy-like spirals were only present in elderly patients. Photo by Katie-Marie Case.
Shortlisted – Split brain
This image shows the very early development of a mouse embryo brain. At this stage when the embryo is just two millimetres long, the brain is split down the middle, each side developing independently. The left and right halves can be seen gradually folding to meet each other, like two butterfly wings coming up to meet at the tips. Eventually, these folds meet in the middle, fusing into a single brain. Photo by Dr Gabriel Galea
Shortlisted – Mini stomach
This image shows a ‘mini-stomach’, also known as an organoid, which are 3D structures of cells grown in a lab that mimic the behaviour of organs found in the body. The cells highlighted in green in this ‘mini-stomach’ are infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
These ‘mini-stomachs’ allow us to study diseases in even more detail than before. They provide scientists with invaluable tools to study how our human organs function, both when they are healthy, and when they are impacted by disease, like COVID-19. Photo by Dr Giovanni Giuseppe Giobbe
Shortlisted – The colours of change
This image is a 3D visualisation of a child’s head with trigonocephaly (triangular head) both before (left) and after surgery (right).
Trigonocephaly occurs when the joint that connects the two halves of the front of the forehead fuse earlier than normal. The early fusion results in a ridge in the middle of the forehead and hollowed sides, which can restrict brain growth. It is thought that between 1 in 2,000 and 2,500 children are born with this condition. A simple surgery is offered to correct this. A strip of bone in the forehead is removed and then a helmet is worn for several months which guides the babies ‘elastic’ skull into a regular shape.
The image here shows the yellow-coloured forehead region pre-operation which shows how the head bends outwards. However, 24 months after the surgery, the same region is now coloured green and blue, showing the flattening that occurred. Photo by Ahmed Elawadly
More great images on BBC Science Focus:
Shortlisted – The beauty of 3D protein structures
This image shows the predicted 3D structure of DEPDC5, a protein important for brain function. The twist and turning shapes that make up the protein are chains of amino acids. Proteins are fundamental structures within all the cells in our bodies. They play an essential role in how our bodies work and are sometimes described as the building blocks of life. If the shape of these proteins changes, then this could prevent them from performing their function. Photo by Dr Lara Menzies
Shortlisted – My spine?
This is a photo from ‘There is a Light: BRIGHTLIGHT’, a research-based theatrical performance, with a cast of young people – some of whom had previously been diagnosed with cancer. BRIGHTLIGHT was a national evaluation looking at whether specialist cancer services for teenagers and young people add value. Over 1,000 young people contributed to the research which was then interpreted and performed by the theatre group, Contact Young Company. The aim of this was to share research findings in a more dynamic, diverse, and accessible way. Photo by Professor Faith Gibson
Shortlisted – Cholesteatoma
This is an image of the middle ear structure generated by both CT and MRI scanning techniques. The red structure is a cholesteatoma, a destructive cell growth in the middle ear that needs to be surgically removed in order to maintain hearing and balance.
CT scanning provides surgeons with necessary detail about the bone structures that surround the growth, but these scans do not accurately highlight the growth itself, which can only be seen with diffusion-weighted MRI. Using a combination of these two techniques, as in this image, helps show the red cholesteatoma within the detailed grey bone structure, so that it can be removed as safely as possible. Photo by Jan Sedlacik
Shortlisted – Finding patterns in data
This complex network is a visual representation of a group of patients on an immunosuppressant called Basilixmab, a drug that helps to prevent immediate rejection of a donated organ after transplant. The connecting lines show all the other medications these patients are taking over a period of 14 days. Large datasets like this can help us to spot patterns within groups of patients. Photo by John Booth